Nail art turns fingertips into fashion statements

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A sample wheel at Nail Arts, 1530 W. Sixth St., shows some of the nail art designs technicians can paint.

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Tracy Meisenheimer of Nails by Tracy gives Barb Rollins, Lawrence, a nail art manicure — featuring multiple polish colors and glitter — at her salon in the Hillcrest Shopping Center.

Mickey Mouse, Christmas trees, stars and stripes, snowmen, rhinestones, Easter egg designs, even a Taiwanese flag.

Lawrence nail salon owner Tracy Le has had customers request all of them — miniature enough to fit on a finger or toenail.

For many women, the tips of their fingers and toes aren’t simply part of a beauty routine anymore. They’re an opportunity for a fashion statement or self-expression.

With demand for custom-designed manicures increasing in recent years, Lawrence salons that offer nail art can do everything from metallic zebra print applications to freehand designs for any holiday.

At Nail Arts, 1530 W. Sixth St., which Le owns, wheels of fake nails show a sampling of designs technicians have done before. Le said clients also bring in pictures or request original ideas.

“We try the best we can to make them happy,” said Le, who also owns Nail Citi, 2540 Iowa St., and Envy Nails, 4000 W. Sixth St.

Nail art has come a long way since Tracy Meisenheimer started in the business 20 years ago.

“There isn’t that stigma that there used to be,” said Meisenheimer, who owns Nails by Tracy in the Hillcrest Styling Center, 935 Iowa St. “It can be very elegant, it can be sassy, it can be classy, it can be really just kind of out of the box.”

Meisenheimer’s nail art clients range from professionals wanting something fun but functional to other women looking for over-the-top designs.

She’s had soccer moms using their nails to cheer on their players, and younger girls requesting rhinestones or holographic designs. Meisenheimer’s even done red and chrome cheetah print nails for her 74-year-old mother.

“People are kind of looking at it more of a fashion accessory,” Meisenheimer said.

And they're willing to pay extra to get something unique. While pricing varies at salons across town, Nail Arts charges an additional $5 or more, depending on the design, for manicures and pedicures with nail art. Meisenheimer charges $20 for regular manicures and up to $40 for nail art, sometimes more depending on how elaborate the order.

Keeping up on new nail trends is important, and networking with other professionals — including the ones who know what the celebrities are doing — is a great tool, Meisenheimer said.

Did you notice Beyonce’s gold chevron nails at the Super Bowl? She and other stars have been spotted sporting Minx nails, a name-brand nail application that comes in designs from animal prints to U.S. currency.

In 2010, Meisenheimer became the first certified Minx nail artist in Kansas, she said. Now there are several others in the Kansas City area, according to the brand’s website, but Meisenheimer remains the only one in Lawrence.

Pulling off freehand designs on — literally — fingertip-sized canvasses isn’t easy.

Meisenheimer and other nail artists rely on art brushes and a steady hand.

There’s one design in particular that’s really worth practicing for a nail artist in this town, Le said.

“When you live in Lawrence,” she said. “You need to know how to do a Jayhawk.”

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